3 Ways of Thinking That Are Holding You Back

By Rick Warren

ThinkingWhen Christian leaders become ambitious, things get tough. Often other people will mistake our ambition for pride or presumption. But Jesus was ambitious about building His church. Paul was ambitious about pressing toward the prize. Joshua was ambitious about taking the promised land. The fact is, God responds to bold, audacious vision and ambition in a leader.

So what could be holding your ambition back?

We tend to confuse humility and fear.

Humility is not denying your strengths. Humility is being honest about your weaknesses. All of us are a bundle of both great strengths and great weaknesses and humility is being able to be honest about both. Paul could say, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” because he was also honest about his weaknesses and he said, ”I’m the chief among sinners.” So he writes down both his strengths and his weaknesses.

God wants you to be humble, but He does not want you to be fearful. And to not accomplish anything is not humility but fear. Don’t worry about God humbling you. He has plenty ways to do that. Worry that you might not be all that He wants you to be because of fear.

We tend to confuse contentment with laziness.

In Philippians 4:12 Paul says, “I have learned to be content in every situation.” But that does not mean I don’t have any ambition or that I never set any goals for myself or my church. Paul was not saying, “I don’t have any desires about tomorrow. I don’t hope for the future. I don’t have any ambitions.” What he’s saying is, “I’ve learned to fully enjoy today, this moment, even though my goals may not be reached yet.”

As a pastor, you need to learn to be happy while your church is where it is right now. If you’re not happy with the place God has placed you right now, you won’t be happy as it continues to grow because you’ll always fall into the trap of “when and then” thinking – “When I get such and such, then I’ll be happy.” If everybody used contentment as an excuse for laziness, who would build the churches that reach the people? Who would care about world hunger? Who would fight for justice and equality? Who would even go out and get an education? The third grader who says, “I’ve learned to be content with whatever stage I’m at,” never goes on to the fourth grade. We cannot confuse contentment and laziness.

We tend to confuse little thinking with spirituality.

Satan is an expert at getting us to think small. There’s the old myth that says quality is the opposite of quantity. Actually they’re both important. In a ministry, you want to reach as many people for Christ as possible and you want them to grow as deeply as possible. But if quality was judged by size, then the church of one person would be the highest quality church. Don’t confuse little thinking with spirituality.

I encourage you in your prayer life to start saying, “God, enlarge my influence.” That’s a Biblical prayer. You need a great expectation from God. It’s not only okay, it’s imperative that church leaders cultivate an ambitious heart.

photo credit: Davide Restivo

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.